James D. Hamilton

Professor of Economics


Professor of Economics, UCSD
phone: (858) 534-5986
FAX: (858) 534-7040
E-mail: jhamilton@ucsd.edu

Department of Economics, 0508
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
Directions to Econ Building

Current Working Papers

The Equilibrium Real Funds Rate: Past, Present and Future, coauthored with Ethan Harris, Jan Hatzius and Kenneth West. We examine the behavior, determinants, and implications of the equilibrium level of the real federal funds rate, defined as the rate consistent with full employment and stable inflation in the medium term. We draw three main conclusions. First, the uncertainty around the equilibrium rate is large, and its relationship with trend GDP growth much more tenuous than widely believed. Our narrative and econometric analysis using cross-country data and going back to the 19th Century supports a wide range of plausible central estimates for the current level of the equilibrium rate, from a little over 0% to the pre-crisis consensus of 2%. Second, despite this uncertainty, we are skeptical of the “secular stagnation” view that the equilibrium rate will remain near zero for many years to come. The evidence for secular stagnation before the 2008 crisis is weak, and the disappointing post-2008 recovery is better explained by protracted but ultimately temporary headwinds from the housing supply overhang, household and bank deleveraging, and fiscal retrenchment. Once these headwinds had abated by early 2014, US growth did in fact accelerate to a pace well above potential. Third, the uncertainty around the equilibrium rate argues for more “inertial” monetary policy than implied by standard versions of the Taylor rule. Our simulations using the Fed staff’s FRB/US model show that explicit recognition of this uncertainty results in a later but steeper normalization path for the funds rate compared with the median “dot” in the FOMC’s Summary of Economic Projections. See Econbrowser for a short summary of the paper.

Macroeconomic Regimes and Regime Shifts. Many economic time series exhibit dramatic breaks associated with events such as economic recessions, financial panics, and currency crises. Such changes in regime may arise from tipping points or other nonlinear dynamics and are core to some of the most important questions in macroeconomics. This chapter surveys the literature on regime changes. Section 1 begins with an interpretation of the move of an economy into and out of recession as an example of a change in regime and introduces some of the basic tools for analyzing such phenomena. Section 2 provides a detailed overview of econometric methods that are appropriate for time series that are subject to changes in regime. Section 3 summarizes the ways in which changes in regime can be incorporated into theoretical economic models and briefly reviews applications in a number of areas of macroeconomics.

Heterogeneity and Unemployment Dynamics, coauthored with Hie Joo Ahn. This paper develops new estimates of flows into and out of unemployment that allow for unobserved heterogeneity across workers as well as direct effects of unemployment duration on unemployment-exit probabilities. Unlike any previous paper in this literature, we develop a complete dynamic statistical model that allows us to measure the contribution of different shocks to the short-run, medium-run, and long-run variance of unemployment as well as to specific historical episodes. We find that changes in the inflows of newly unemployed are the key driver of economic recessions and identify an increase in permanent job loss as the most important factor. A summary of the paper for general-interest readers is available on Econbrowser.

Sign Restrictions, Structural Vector Autoregressions, and Useful Prior Information, coauthored with Christiane Baumeister. This paper makes the following original contributions to the literature. (1) We develop a simpler analytical characterization and numerical algorithm for Bayesian inference in structural vector autoregressions that can be used for models that are overidentified, just-identified, or underidentified. (2) We analyze the asymptotic properties of Bayesian inference and show that in the underidentified case, the asymptotic posterior distribution of contemporaneous coefficients in an n-variable VAR is confined to the set of values that orthogonalize the population variance-covariance matrix of OLS residuals, with the height of the posterior proportional to the height of the prior at any point within that set. For example, in a bivariate VAR for supply and demand identified solely by sign restrictions, if the population correlation between the VAR residuals is positive, then even if one has available an infinite sample of data, any inference about the demand elasticity is coming exclusively from the prior distribution. (3) We provide analytical characterizations of the informative prior distributions for impulse-response functions that are implicit in the traditional sign-restriction approach to VARs, and note, as a special case of result (2), that the influence of these priors does not vanish asymptotically. (4) We illustrate how Bayesian inference with informative priors can be both a strict generalization and an unambiguous improvement over frequentist inference in just-identified models. (5) We propose that researchers need to explicitly acknowledge and defend the role of prior beliefs in influencing structural conclusions and illustrate how this could be done using a simple model of the U.S. labor market. Download MATLAB software to implement.

Off-Balance-Sheet Federal Liabilities. Much attention has been given to the recent growth of the U.S. federal debt. This paper examines the growth of federal liabilities that are not included in the officially reported numbers. These take the form of implicit or explicit government guarantees and commitments. The five major categories surveyed include support for housing, other loan guarantees, deposit insurance, actions taken by the Federal Reserve, and government trust funds. The total dollar value of notional off-balance-sheet commitments came to $70 trillion as of 2012, or 6 times the size of the reported on-balance-sheet debt. The paper reviews the potential costs and benefits of these off-balance-sheet commitments and their role in precipitating or mitigating the financial crisis of 2008.

Effects of index-fund investing on commodity futures prices, coauthored with Cynthia Wu, forthcoming in International Economic Review. Abstract: The last decade brought substantial increased participation in commodity markets by index funds that maintain long positions in the near futures contracts. Policy makers and academic studies have reached sharply different conclusions about the effects of these funds on commodity futures prices. This paper proposes a unifying framework for examining this question, noting that according to a simple model of futures arbitrage, if index-fund buying influences prices by changing the risk premium, then the notional positions of the index investors should help predict excess returns in these contracts. We find no evidence that the positions of traders in agricultural contracts identified by the CFTC as following an index strategy can help predict returns on the near futures contracts. We review evidence that these positions might help predict changes in oil futures prices, and find that while there is some support for this in the earlier data, this appears to be driven by some of the dramatic features of the 2007-2009 recession, with the relation breaking down out of sample.

Selected publications (chronological)

The Changing Face of Crude Oil Markets, IAEE Energy Forum, 4th quarter 2014, pp. 7-13. Working paper version here.

Risk Premia in Crude Oil Futures Prices, Journal of International Money and Finance, 42 (April 2014): 9-37. Coauthored with Jing Cynthia Wu. Working paper version here.

Testable Implications of Affine-Term-Structure Models, Journal of Econometrics, 178, no. 2 (January 2014): 231-242. Coauthored with Jing Cynthia Wu. Working paper version here.

Crunch Time: Fiscal Crises and the Role of Monetary Policy, in Proceedings of the U.S. Monetary Policy Forum 2013, pp. 3-58. Initiative on Global Markets, Chicago Booth. Coauthored with David Greenlaw, Peter Hooper, and Frederic Mishkin. Working paper version here, executive summary here.

"Oil Prices, Exhaustible Resources, and Economic Growth," in Handbook of Energy and Climate Change, pp. 29-57, edited by Roger Fouquet. Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013. Working paper version here.

"Historical Oil Shocks," in Routledge Handbook of Major Events in Economic History, pp. 239-265, edited by Randall E. Parker and Robert Whaples, New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2013. Working paper version here.

Comment on 'The French Gold Sink and the Great Deflation of 1929-32', Cato Papers on Public Policy, Volume 2, 2012-2013, pp. 49-56. Edited by Jeffrey Miron. Washington, DC: Cato Institute. Working paper version here.

The Propagation of Regional Recessions Review of Economics and Statistics, 94, no. 4 (November 2012): 935-947. Coauthored with Michael T. Owyang. Working paper version here. Click here for software and data.

Identification and Estimation of Gaussian Affine Term Structure Models, Journal of Econometrics, 168, no. 2 (June 2012): 315-331. Coauthored with Jing Cynthia Wu. Working paper version here. Click here for software to implement these procedures

Commentary: Import Prices and Inflation, International Journal of Central Banking, March 2012, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 271-279.

The Effectiveness of Alternative Monetary Policy Tools in a Zero Lower Bound Environment, Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking, 44, no. 1 (Supplement, February 2012): 3-46. Coauthored with Jing Cynthia Wu. Working paper version here. Click here to access the database developed for this paper.

"Nonlinearities and the Macroeconomic Effects of Oil Prices," Macroeconomic Dynamics, 2011, vol. 15, Supplement 3, pp. 364-378. Working paper version here.

"Calling Recessions in Real Time," International Journal of Forecasting October-December 2011, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 1006-1026. Winner of International Journal of Forecasting Best Paper Award for 2010-2011. Working paper version here. Click here for software to implement these procedures

"Estimating the market-perceived monetary policy rule", American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, July 2011, vol. 3, pp. 1-28. Co-authored with Seth Pruitt and Scott Borger. Working paper version here and a description of the paper written for a general audience can be found here.

"Sources of Variation in Holding Returns for Fed Funds Futures Contracts", Journal of Futures Markets, 2011, vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 205-229. Co-authored with Tatsuyoshi Okimoto. Working paper version here.

Macroeconomics and ARCH, in Festschrift in Honor of Robert F. Engle, pp. 79-96, edited by Tim Bollerslev, Jeffry R. Russell and Mark Watson, Oxford University Press, 2010. Description of the paper for a general audience here.

Causes and Consequences of the Oil Shock of 2007-08, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Spring 2009: 215-259. Articles summarizing this paper for a more general audience: [1] (causes); [2] (consequences). Working paper version here. Also available are data and software to reproduce any of the results in this paper.

Concerns about the Fed's New Balance Sheet, in The Road Ahead for the Fed, edited by John D. Ciorciari and John B. Taylor, Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2009. Working paper draft available here. Book can be ordered from Amazon here.

Oil Prices and the Economic Downturn, testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress, May 20, 2009.

Daily Changes in Fed Funds Futures Prices, Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking June 2009, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 567-582. Working paper version here. An article summarizing this paper for a general audience is available at Econbrowser.

Understanding Crude Oil Prices, Energy Journal 2009, vol 30, no. 2, pp. 179-206. Working paper version here, slides for talk available here.

Daily Monetary Policy Shocks and New Home Sales, Journal of Monetary Economics 55 (2008), pp. 1171-1190. Articles summarizing this paper for a more general audience: [1], [2]. For an illustration of how these estimates relate to developments in January 2008, see this analysis.

Oil and the Macroeconomy, in New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition, edited by Steven Durlauf and Lawrence Blume, Palgrave McMillan Ltd., 2008.

Regime-Switching Models, in New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition, edited by Steven Durlauf and Lawrence Blume, Palgrave McMillan Ltd., 2008.

Assessing Monetary Policy Effects Using Daily Federal Funds Futures Contracts, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, July/August 2008, pp. 377-393.

Inside the Economist's Mind: A Book Review, Macroeconomic Dynamics, 2008, vol. 12, pp. 112-116.

Commentary: Housing and the Monetary Transmission Mechanism, in Housing, Housing Finance, and Monetary Policy, 2007, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pp. 415-422.

Normalization in Econometrics, coauthored with Tao Zha and Dan Waggoner . Econometric Reviews, 2007, vol 26, no 2-4, pp. 221-252. Click here to download computer code used in the analysis.

Dating Business Cycle Turning Points, co-authored with Marcelle Chauvet. In Nonlinear Time Series Analysis of Business Cycles, edited by Costas Milas, Philip Rothman, and Dick van Dijk, Elsevier, North Holland, 2006.

Computing Power and the Power of Econometrics, Medium Econometrische Toepessingen, 2006, volume 14, number 2, pp. 32-38.

"What's Real About the Business Cycle?" Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, July/August 2005, 87(4), pp. 435-452. Click here to download computer code and data sets used in the analysis.

"Oil Shocks and Aggregate Macroeconomic Behavior: The Role of Monetary Policy," Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking, April 2004, vol. 36, pp. 265-286. Co-authored with Anna Maria Herrera. Click here to see a copy of the paper or to download data and programs.

"Why Are Prices Sticky? The Dynamics of Wholesale Gasoline Prices," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, February 2004, vol. 36, pp. 17-37. Co-authored with Michael Davis. Paper can be downloaded as can the data and software used in the study.

What Is an Oil Shock? Journal of Econometrics, April 2003, vol. 113, pp. 363-398. A working paper version can be downloaded as can the data and software used in the study.

"A Model for the Federal Funds Rate Target," Journal of Political Economy, October 2002, vol. 110, pp. 1135-1167. Co-authored with Oscar Jorda. A working paper version can be downloaded as can the data and software used in the study.

"On the Interpretation of Cointegration in the Linear-Quadratic Inventory Model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, October 2002, vol. 26, pp. 2037-2049. Working paper version can be downloaded.

"A Re-Examination of the Predictability of the Yield Spread for Real Economic Activity," Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking, May 2002, vol. 34, pp. 340-360. Co-authored with Dong Heon Kim Working paper version can be downloaded as can the data and software used in the study.

Advances in Markov-Switching Models, Co-edited with Baldev Raj. Physica-Verlag, 2002.

"A Parametric Approach to Flexible Nonlinear Inference," Econometrica, May 2001, vol. 69. Working paper version can be downloaded, as can the data and software used in this study.

"The Supply and Demand for Federal Reserve Deposits," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, December 1998, vol. 49. Working paper version (missing figures and some mathematical symbols) can be downloaded, as can the data and software used in the study.

"The Augmented Solow Model and the Productivity Slowdown," Journal of Monetary Economics, Dec. 1998, vol. 42 (coauthored with Josefina Monteagudo).

"Measuring the Liquidity Effect," American Economic Review, March 1997. Click here to download data and software

"Stock Market Volatility and the Business Cycle," Journal of Applied Econometrics, Sept.-Oct. 1996, vol. 11, no. 5, (coauthored with Gang Lin). Click here to download data and software

"This Is What Happened to the Oil Price/Macroeconomy Relation," Journal of Monetary Economics, , Oct. 1996

"The Daily Market for Federal Funds," Journal of Political Economy, Feb. 1996. Click here to download data and software

"Specification Testing in Markov-Switching Time-Series Models", Journal of Econometrics, Jan. 1996. Click here to download data and software

"What Do the Leading Indicators Lead?", Journal of Business, Jan. 1996 (coauthored with Gabriel Perez-Quiros). Click here to download data and software.

"Rational Expectations and the Economic Consequences of Changes in Regime," pp. 325-344, in Macroeconometrics: Developments, Tensions, and Prospects, edited by Kevin D. Hoover, Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995.

Time Series Analysis, Princeton Univ. Press, 1994. Click here to order from amazon.com or click here to download data and programs to implement examples from the text. Here is a list of items that have updated or corrected from the earlier printings. If you have other suggestions to add to this list, please let me know. Click on pictures at right to order Japanese translation (two-volume set).

"Autoregressive Conditional Heteroskedasticity and Changes in Regime," Journal of Econometrics, September/October 1994 (coathored with Raul Susmel). Click here to download data and software.

"State-Space Models," Handbook of Econometrics, Volume 4, , edited by R. Engle and D. McFadden, North-Holland, 1994. Click here to download data and software.

"Estimation, Inference, and Forecasting of Time Series Subject to Changes in Regime," Handbook of Statistics, Volume 11, edited by G. S. Maddala, C. R. Rao, and H. D. Vinod, North-Holland, 1993.

"Was the Deflation During the Great Depression Anticipated? Evidence from the Commodity Futures Market," American Economic Review, March 1992. Click here to download data and software.

"A Quasi-Bayesian Approach to Estimating Parameters for Mixtures of Normal Distributions," Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Jan. 1991. Click here to download data and software.

"Long Swings in the Dollar: Are They in the Data and Do Markets Know It?", American Economic Review, Sept. 1990 (coauthored with Charles Engel). Click here to download data and software.

"Analysis of Time Series Subject to Changes in Regime," Journal of Econometrics, July/August 1990. Click here to download data and software.

"A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica , March 1989. Click here to download data and software.

"Rational Expectations Econometric Analysis of Changes in Regime: An Investigation of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, June/Sept. 1988

"A Neoclassical Model of Unemployment and the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, June 1988

"The Role of the International Gold Standard in Propagating the Great Depression," Contemporary Policy Issues, April 1988

"Monetary Factors in the Great Depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, March 1987

"A Standard Error for the Estimated State Vector of a State-Space Model," Journal of Econometrics, Dec. 1986

"On the Limitations of Government Borrowing: A Framework for Empirical Testing," American Economic Review, September 1986, pp. 808-819, (coauthored with Marjorie A. Flavin).

"Kalman Filter Estimation of Unobserved Monthly Expectations of Inflation," Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, April 1986, pp. 147-160, (coauthored with Edwin Burmeister and Kent D. Wall).

"Uncovering Financial Market Expectations of Inflation," Journal of Political Economy, December, 1985, pp. 1224-1241.

"The Observable Implications of Self-Fulfilling Expectations," Journal of Monetary Economics, November 1985, pp. 353-373, (coauthored with Charles H. Whiteman).

"Historical Causes of Postwar Oil Shocks and Recessions," Energy Journal, January 1985, pp. 97-116.

"Oil and the Macroeconomy Since World War II," Journal of Political Economy, April 1983, pp. 228-248.

"Dynamics of Terrorism," International Studies Quarterly, March 1983, pp. 39-54, (coauthored with Lawrence C. Hamilton).

"Models of Social Contagion," Journal of Mathematical Sociology, June 1981, pp. 133-160, (coauthored with Lawrence C. Hamilton).

Research support

Some of the research described above is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants SBR-9707771, SES-0076072, and NSF-0215754. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recomendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

James D. Hamilton / Economics